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The Wizard of Oz

May 29, 1991

It is fitting that your (The Hutchinson News) May 26 column of editorials, which denounces Joan Finney’s banner of "long dead Populism,” immediately goes on to denounce again “That Movie,” “The Wizard of Oz,” written in year 1900, the time of Populism’s “death.”

"The Wizard of Oz" is a “children’s” fable in the same category as “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The emperor’s new clothes and the wizard’s wonderful powers all resulted from delusions promoted by political propaganda. Both fables are political statements.

Populism began among Midwestern farmers, who periodically feel the squeeze of high costs, low farm prices, and continuing indebtedness.

Its peak came in the 1890’s. Farmers appealed to unemployed industrial workers and general voters in an effort to elect William Jennings Bryan, a gifted orator, as U.S. President. They put the blame for their problems on banks, railroads, and other elitist interests. They advocated silver coinage to supplement gold coinage, and laws against elitist interests.

Bryan’s defeat in 1896 signaled the decline of popu1ism.

Lyman Frank Baum experienced these events in rural South Dakota, where he edited a local weekly, and in Chicago, where be wrote the fable.

The fable in 1900, its musical version in 1901, the movie in 1939, and the present attention to populism, all follow agricultural depressions.

In "That Movie", Dorothy, (the common citizen) tries to solve her problems “over the rainbow,” at the center of political power, using her ruby slippers (in the fable, silver slippers, the silver issue) , and walking down the yellow brick road (the gold issue) , accompanied by the Scarecrow (farmers) , the Tin Woodsman (industrial workers), and the Lion with a roar (Bryan) , only to discover, after the wicked, enslaving, elitist witches are destroyed, that the center of political power is maintained by humbug (delusion) in the land of Oz (whose name is the abbreviation for “ounce,” the unit which measures gold and silver).

Dorothy could find a better life at home, even on the farm in Kansas. That was the truth she would not believe until she learned it for herself.

Whether Joan Finney is a genuine populist or another nominal populist fronting for the elitists is something unknown to me. I don’t put my confidence in either group.

Both populists and elitists of various labels assume that the wisdom needed to solve human problems and coordinate human activity can be found in a group of people, who should be given the power of arms to execute such solutions. They differ only in their definition of who is included in the group which embodies such wisdom.

Because I believe the gospel of God’ s Kingdom which was introduced in Jesus Christ, I am content to know that the wisdom, power, and. authority needed to save people with seemingly hopeless problems, are embodied only in Jesus of Nazareth, God’s Son, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, whom God has chosen as the chief executive of the kingdom already present on this earth, into which all those who are weary and burdened are invited.

That is the “good news” of the gospel. Jesus brings salvation—spiritual and political. He is the only Savior.

Every humanistic pretension that a group of human beings with arms can bring salvation is an idolatrous counterfeit-- genuine humbug.

“For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.” (Isaiah 33:22)